New NXE trailer, hard disk installation tested

Let’s get two birds with one stone here — first, the above video is a new trailer for the New Xbox Experience, showing off some of the more basic features that we’ve all seen before. It’s also very similar to the E3 trailer — they even use the same song — but hey, it’s still new.

And second — hard disk installations. One of the new features coming with the New Xbox Experience is the ability to install and run games from the 360’s hard disk. The idea is that this will reduce load times and increase performance. With that in mind, the guys over at Eurogamer have tested the results of 10 games run straight from the HDD. In comparison with the same games run from DVD, the results are pretty good.

The games tested include GTA IV, Halo 3, BioShock, Mass Effect and The Orange Box. Results vary from game to game, but a general reduction of load times was apparent. The Orange Box had the most dramatic results, with some of its long load times being halved. A tangible reduction was also seen in the other games, most commonly a few seconds shaved off here and there. Oddly, Halo 3 actually suffers from increased load times when installed and run in this manner.

Performance wise the results were slightly less apparent. In most cases installation had little effect. Fable 2 and Mass Effect gained most, with the latter all but exorcised of those annoying load pauses in-game. Unfortunately, the texture pop-in is still apparent, as are those miserably long lift sequences BioWare used to mask the loading of new areas.

So overall, the feature looks like it has solid, if not spectacular, results. Personally, it’s the noise reduction that comes from installation that has me most interested. But I’ll take reduced load times, thank you very much. Only trouble is, if I’m going to install all my games to HDD I’ll have to go and buy a bigger hard disk. If I was a more cynical man I’d say Microsoft… No, no, they have only good in their hearts.